Every Tuesday, L.A. resident Sandra L. visits her local Petco to buy food for her two cats, Jake and Summer. For nearly a month during those trips, she would pause to look at Lil’ T, a longhair, gray-and-white cat eyeing her from inside his enclosure, waiting for someone to adopt him.
“I’d see him and say ‘Hi,’” recalls Sandra. “After a few weeks, I asked my husband, Tony, if we could adopt him. I wanted Lil’ T to get out of that enclosure and stretch his legs!”
Tony met Lil’ T on a Thursday, and he and Sandra adopted him the next day. After bringing him home, they soon discovered that Lil’ T had a BIG appetite.
Lil’ T shortly after adoption. Sandra worked daily to comb out his hair mats.
“He was eating us out of house and home,” says Sandra. “He knows what a refrigerator is and realizes there’s food in there. He must have grown up on scraps.”
Indeed, Lil’ T was originally discovered foraging for food in the parking lot of the Baldwin Park Animal Care Center in Los Angeles County by the ASPCA’s Community Engagement (CE) team working there.
ASPCA staff at Baldwin Park Animal Care Center fed Lil’ T daily before they were able to coax him into a crate.
“Lil’ T would come right up and rub himself all over me,” says Erica Macias, Senior Manager of CE. “I noticed he had huge ticks on his ears, and he was underweight and raggedy looking.”
The staff named Lil’ T after Tina Reddington, Director of the L.A. ASPCA Volunteer Program, quickly bonded with him.
Other ASPCA staff then set up a feeding station and worked hard to gain the cautious cat’s trust.
“He allowed me to pet him and pick him up for short periods, but we needed to get him in a carrier so we could eventually neuter him,” Erica explains.
Erica and Tina set out a cat carrier next to the feeding station and placed food inside. Eventually, when Lil’ T was halfway in the carrier, Erica ever-so-gently pushed him all the way in.
Lil T’s next stop was a foster home where he spent two weeks, so he could get acclimated to living indoors. Tina arranged for San Pedro resident Vesna S., an ASPCA foster caregiver, and her husband Roger, to take Lil’ T in during this time.
“He was hesitant at first, but he soon caught on that our home was his space,” explains Vesna, who has fostered 11 cats—including a litter of five kittens—since February 2017. “He followed me around, and he slept a lot, which made me feel good. I knew he felt safe and secure. He was also conversant and affectionate. We even watched World Cup together.”
Vesna brushed Lil’ T daily. “He had a lot of matting, but he enjoyed the brushing, which is good because he really needed it,” says Vesna. “We made him into a handsome boy.”
Vesna, a former cat owner, would like to adopt a cat in the future, but recognizes the importance of fostering.
“You get to help these cats who were once on the street or ill and need a place to recover,” she says. “I feel like I’m doing something good for these little ones—getting them ready for adoption. It’s a wonderful feeling to know they found a home.”
Since his adoption, Lil’ T—now known as Bennie—has become very comfortable in Sandra and Tony’s home. “He likes the cat tree and lounges at the top of the stairs,” says Sandra. “He’s the gentlest and mellowest cat we’ve ever had.”
Bennie’s new feline siblings, Jake and Summer, are adapting well to his arrival, and the three often spend time together in the same room.
Lil’ T, now Bennie, far right, with Sandra’s cats Summer and Jake.
“It was always in the back of my mind to get Summer a playmate,” explains Sandra. “She and Bennie are the same age.”
Gazing out the window at palm trees, birds, and butterflies, Bennie will never know the extent of human compassion and effort that took him from a Los Angeles street to a foster caregiver, a Petco, and eventually into a loving, adoptive home, but those humans will almost certainly remember Bennie—who now has more than enough space to stretch his legs.
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